Spike Jonze’s “Her” is not your average romantic drama, nor is it your standard art house film for the mainstream audience. It’s so much more than that.
To put it briefly, “Her” is a film about a man named Theodore Twombly who falls for and develops a relationship with a hyper-intelligent operating system named Samantha. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson as the voice of Samantha.
This film was, what I would call, an emotional awakening. From the very first frame, I was jolted awake from the dark title screen and thrust into Jonze’s pastel-colored future world. Phoenix’s initial monologue, as sensitive introvert Twombly, captures it perfectly: “Suddenly this bright light hit me and woke me up. That light was you.”
For Jonze’s first venture into original screenwriting, “Her” is brilliant. The way Jonze was able to flesh out these characters, (especially Samantha, who, ironically, has no flesh) is amazing. I felt myself giving in to Jonze’s idea of the not-so-distant future.
The use of language in this film is near poetry. I was hanging onto Samantha’s every word throughout the film; many of her statements and revelations on love and the state of being led me to hours upon hours of personal reflection.
However, there was a downside to this film. There were some conversations between Theodore and the film’s tertiary characters where language was far from the poetic level of our protagonist. I found this to be detracting from the overall language use in the film.
The score for this film was absolutely gorgeous. Composed by the Canadian band Arcade Fire and Owen Pallett, each instrumental I heard felt natural to the scene. Not to mention that “The Moon Song,” contributed by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, is the sweetest and quirkiest song of the year, and the highlight of the film’s score next to Samantha’s in-film composition, “Photograph.”
The true excellence of this film is held within its acting. Phoenix shines with warmth as Theodore, and Johansson defies her Hollywood bombshell trope as Samantha’s disembodied, occasionally husky voice. There were multiple instances throughout the film where I forgot that Samantha was simply well-coded software contained within a smart phone-esque device.
Johansson’s performance made Samantha real in my mind; I saw every humanlike quality of an OS trying to adapt and learn human behavior in a performance that I was only able to hear. Say what you will about Johansson, but any actress than can pull off such a dramatic and emotional performance without a second of onscreen time deserves the praise she receives.
“Her” is a kind of film that we are only able to experience once or twice in our lifetimes. This film is so raw, and its questions are valid and thought-provoking; the almost gimmick of the “man falls in love with software” plotline is lost to the overwhelming emotion and power behind the actors’ performances, in combination with the editing and score.
All in all, “Her” is a very important film, and if you’ve ever been in love, or wondered about love, or even questioned the existence of love, you must see it. Immerse yourself in the experience that Jonze is offering you. Let it win you over in the beginning, break you in the middle, and put you back together in the last few frames. It’s worth it.